BASILE, La. – An immigration judge on Monday granted asylum to a lesbian woman from Cuba who has been in U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody for 10 months.
Judge Pedro J. Espina, who is based in Guaynabo, Puerto Rico, via videoconference granted asylum to Yanelkys Moreno Agramonte, 36, based on the harassment and discrimination she suffered in Cuba because of her sexual orientation. Espina said Moreno would face future persecution if she were to return to her country.
Moreno, in an article the Blade published on June 18, said her family and neighbors never accepted her. Moreno also said Cuba’s National Revolutionary Police in Zulueta, a small town in the center of the country where she lived with her girlfriend, Dayana Rodríguez González, 31, subjected her to homophobic treatment.
The context of rights for the LGBTQ community on the island is extremely limited, because same-sex couples cannot legally marry and they do not have the right to adoption. Cuba’s Labor Code does not protect transgender people and only those who undergo sex-reassignment surgery can change their gender and photo on their identity document, a process that can take several months.
Rodríguez and Moreno entered the U.S. together on Nov. 3, 2019, through a port of entry in El Paso, Texas, but were separated as soon as they began the asylum process.
Rodriguez was released from the El Paso Service Processing Center on Feb. 4, 2020, on parole and a $7,500 bond. Moreno was transferred to the South Louisiana ICE Processing Center in Basile, La., where she remained until her final immigration hearing.
Rodríguez, who now lives in Arizona, in a message she sent to the Blade said she was very happy when Moreno called her and told her she had won her case.
“I felt a lot of emotion in my heart,” Rodríguez declared. “I couldn’t help it. I still can’t stop crying. We will be together again soon.”
Liza Doubossarskaia, a legal assistant for Immigration Equality, which assisted Moreno with her parole petitions, welcomed the decision with joy.
“We are all extremely happy for Yanelkys and Dayana,” said Doubossarskaia. “It has been a difficult journey for her, but fortunately it has a happy conclusion.”
Moreno won asylum without legal representation and she will be released soon, according to Rodríguez. who added her girlfriend will first move to Houston and then meet her again after 10 months of forced separation.
Editor’s note: The Washington Blade has published a Spanish version of this story.